A Vietnamese crook has started a 13-year stretch behind bars for hacking into corporate America, and offering to sell personal information on 200 million US citizens.
Hieu Minh Ngo, 25, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, identity fraud, and access device fraud charges, and four counts of computer fraud and abuse. Judge Paul J. Barbadoro, in the US district court of New Hampshire, sentenced Ngo this week.
The court heard that Ngo ran an identity-theft operation in Vietnam: he hacked into US companies to obtain people's personal records, and sold that private information to criminals and other scumbags. Such information included victims' names, dates of birth, social security numbers, phone numbers, copies of driving licenses, and bank card numbers – a perfect gift for identity thieves and fraudsters.
"From his home in Vietnam, Ngo used internet marketplaces to offer for sale millions of stolen identities of US citizens to more than a thousand cyber criminals scattered throughout the world,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in announcing the conviction.
"Criminals buy and sell stolen identity information because they see it as a low-risk, high-reward proposition."
Prosecutors said Ngo ran the websites superget.info and findget.me between 2007 and 2013, both of which offered to sell illegally obtained personal information on 62 per cent of America's population of 320 million people. Ngo is said to have made almost $2m from 1,300 buyers flocking to his seedy bazaars, and his crooked customers queried his databases more than three million times, the Feds claim.
US taxmen at the IRS believe swiped information on 13,673 US citizens was used by Ngo's shoppers to obtain $65m in fraudulent tax returns.
Ngo was collared by the US Secret Service while in Guam, and was flown to New Hampshire, where one of the companies he infiltrated is located.
The list of hacked businesses was not disclosed by the US Department of Justice, so it is not entirely clear where all that pilfered information came from – we're having to take the Feds' word on this one.
"This case demonstrates that identity theft is a worldwide threat that has the potential to touch every one of us," said acting US Attorney Donald Feith. "This case proves that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire will work with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute identity thieves, even if they are halfway around the world." ®